Global concern grows as COVID-19 variant ravages rural India

  • India suffers deadliest 24 hours of pandemic
  • Rural health system overburdened as virus spreads
  • Expert sees plateau of 400,000 infections per day
  • Heads of state call for vaccines to stop outbreak

BENGALURU, May 12 (Reuters) – India’s coronavirus death toll topped 250,000 on Wednesday in the deadliest 24 hours since the start of the pandemic, as the disease rampaged across the countryside, leaving families mourn the dead in rural hospitals or camp in wards to tend to the sick.

The second wave erupted in February, flooding hospitals and medical staff, as well as crematoria and morgues.

Experts still cannot say for sure when the number will peak and concern is growing over the transmissibility of the variant which is causing infections in India and spreading around the world.

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Indian heads of state have called for vaccines to stop the second wave and the devastation it has wrought, urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop exporting doses, ramp up production and help them source vaccines. urgent supplies abroad.

“People will die the same way in the third and fourth waves as they have this time” without more vaccines, Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia told reporters.

Deaths rose by a record 4,205 while infections rose by 348,421 in the 24 hours to Wednesday, bringing the total to more than 23 million, according to Health Ministry data. Experts believe the actual numbers could be five to ten times higher.

Funeral pyres blazed in city car parks and bodies washed up on the banks of the holy Ganges, submerged by relatives whose villages were stripped of the wood needed for cremations.

Lacking beds, medicine and oxygen, many hospitals in the world’s second most populous country have been forced to turn away many patients.

“We seem to be hitting a plateau around 400,000 cases per day,” virologist Shahid Jameel was quoted as saying by the Indian Express newspaper. “It’s still too early to tell if we’ve reached the top.”


The country accounts for half of COVID-19 cases and 30% of deaths worldwide, the World Health Organization has said. He designated the B.1.617 variant found there as a global concern, but said its full impact is not yet clear.

The variant has been detected in six countries in the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization said, adding that it fears it is highly transmissible.

Britain, which has also detected the variant, said it was looking at all possible solutions to deal with local increases in cases, while the European Union urged all of its 27 member countries to halt non-essential travel from India to limit its spread. Read more

Daily infections are rising in rural India compared to major cities, where they have slowed after last month’s surge, experts say.

More than half of the cases this week in the western state of Maharashtra were in rural areas, up from a third a month ago. That share is nearly two-thirds in the most populous and mostly rural state of Uttar Pradesh, according to government data.

A pregnant woman was caring for her husband who had breathing difficulties at a hospital in Bhagalpur, in the eastern state of Bihar, which is seeing a rise in cases that its health system could barely have handled at the best of times.

“There is no doctor here, she sleeps all night here, taking care of her husband,” the woman’s brother told India Today television.

In a hallway outside, two sons wept over their father’s body, repeatedly saying he could have been saved if only he had been given a bed in an intensive care unit.

At the general hospital in Bijnor, a town in northern Uttar Pradesh, a woman lay in a bed next to a rubbish bin and medical waste.

“How can someone be cured if the situation is like this?” asked his son, Sudesh Tyagi. “It’s hell in here.”

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Reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru, Tanvi Mehta in New Delhi; Written by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Teresa H. Sadler